Dutch government urged by airlines to drop tax proposals as NGOS take it to court over ICAO aircraft CO2 standard

Thu 14 Dec 2017 – Eight years after ditching an air passenger ‘eco’ tax introduced a year earlier, the Dutch government is reportedly planning new aviation taxation measures to address the sector’s environmental impact. International airline associations have written to the Dutch finance minister urging the government not to proceed with the policy. They believe the government envisages a Europe-wide aviation tax resulting from negotiations due in 2019 over the Paris climate objectives and a tax on noisy and polluting aircraft. If the two measures are deemed insufficient then an aviation passenger tax may be introduced in the Netherlands from 2021, they fear. Meanwhile, the government is being taken to court by three NGOs for refusing to release ICAO documents on the global aircraft CO2 standard adopted by the UN agency in March this year.

A Dutch aviation tax could generate around €200 million ($230m) annually from the sector, but KLM and Schiphol Group say it would not help the environment and instead would interfere with maintaining a competitive aviation market. When an air passenger tax was introduced in July 2008, it was expected to raise in the region of €300 million a year but was scrapped a year later following a steep decline in passenger traffic at the main Dutch airports, particularly at Amsterdam Schiphol, with air travellers said to have taken flights from airports in Belgium and Germany to avoid the tax (see article).

Not only would the proposed new tax would have the same negative impact on the Dutch economy, it would contradict international law, standards and principles, claim the nine associations – IATA, ERA, AIRE, AFRAA, A4A, AACO, AAPA, ALTA and NACC. The taxation policy would be “at odds with the principles that underlie all of ICAO’s requirements regarding environmental levies,” they said, pointing out that the resolution underpinning ICAO’s CORSIA scheme was to be the sole market-based measure applying to CO2 emissions from international aviation. “Moreover,” they added, “intra-EU flights are subject to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, in which airlines already pay their contribution towards reducing the environmental impact.

“As an absolute minimum, the associations request that the Dutch government undertakes an independent evaluation of the economic and environmental impact of the policy and holds an open and constructive public consultation process before making any final decisions.”

In October, another airline association, Airlines for Europe (A4E), released a study it commissioned from PwC that showed abolishing the German air passenger tax would boost the country’s GDP by €67 billion ($79bn) cumulatively over the next 12 years. PwC estimated that Germany’s revenues from air passenger taxes would raise €1 billion in 2017.

“The study demonstrates the impact of passenger taxes, which hinder economic growth and tourism. Countries that have scrapped them have seen a boom in air traffic, which has benefited their economies,” said Thomas Reynaert, A4E’s Managing Director. “Removing all air passenger levies would add more than 24.6 million passengers by 2020.”

The study estimated that around 79% of the additional passengers would come to Germany for leisure purposes and the remaining 21% for business reasons. Currently, air passenger taxes are collected in Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway and the UK, with Germany the second largest collector after the UK.

NGOs counter that the European sector is under-taxed as it escapes taxation on its aviation fuel and airline tickets.

The three NGOs taking the Dutch government to court – Natuur & Milieu, Transport & Environment (T&E) and environmental lawyers ClientEarth – say that by refusing to publish decisions and research about ICAO’s aircraft CO2 standard, EU citizens and civil society are being denied their right to access environmental information under Directive 2003/4/EC.

The standard was ineffective as a result of commercial pressure, said the NGOs, who claimed that two-thirds of the observers on ICAO’s rule-making environment committee CAEP were industry lobbyists and accused aircraft manufacturer Airbus of having undue influence in drafting the EU’s position on the CO2 standard.

“We’re exclusively reliant on tidbits of information from ICAO and governments about how they are addressing aviation emissions,” said Andrew Murphy, Aviation Manager at T&E. “That makes it difficult for civil society groups and outside experts to examine claims about ICAO’s effectiveness. Only by making such reports public is it possible to conduct a fair assessment of ICAO’s efforts to take climate action.”

Supported by T&E and ClientEarth, the lawsuit is being taken by Natuur & Milieu at Utrecht district court to appeal a previous decision by the Dutch government not to disclose the information.

“Emissions from aviation have a global impact that cannot be ignored. The public has the right to access information on how emissions from aircraft will be reduced and to participate in decisions that affect their health and environment,” said Ugo Taddei, a clean air lawyer at ClientEarth. “By making these decisions behind closed doors, the Dutch government is breaking EU transparency rules and putting business interests before those of the planet as a whole.”

Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Two new European projects get off the ground to investigate conversion of forestry residues to jet fuel

KLM will operate an 88-seat Embraer 175 on its new daily biofuel route to Växjö

Thu 17 May 2018 – To mark the introduction of a new daily flight between Amsterdam and Växjö Småland Airport, KLM has announced it will invest in 120,000 litres of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) per year for use on all flights to and from the destination in southern Sweden.

Environmental groups criticise ICAO over lack of CORSIA transparency and threat to biofuel sustainability criteria

Fri 18 Nov 2017 – ICAO has come under fire from two environmental groups over a perceived lack of transparency on decisions concerning its CORSIA global carbon offsetting scheme and fears that sustainability criteria for the use of biofuels qualifying under the scheme are being heavily watered down. ICAO’s governing Council has been meeting in Montreal to discuss detailed regulations on the operation of the scheme that have been drawn up by its technical committee CAEP. However, CAEP confidentiality rules and the closed-door Council sessions are allowing ICAO to develop climate policy in isolation and this risks undermining the Paris Agreement, argues Carbon Market Watch. Meanwhile, Transport & Environment says it understands political interventions in the Council could lead to the removal of 10 out of the 12 sustainability criteria for biofuels recommended by CAEP. The CORSIA Package, as it is known, is due to be sent shortly to all ICAO states for scrutiny and approval.

CORSIA, says Carbon Market Watch (CMW) in a new analysis report, is currently the only significant carbon offsetting scheme in the post-Kyoto period when the Paris Agreement comes into force, and the reliance on purchasing carbon credits from reductions in other sectors poses significant challenges to ensure the integrity of the scheme. Transparency on how the CORSIA rules will be designed as well as opportunities to engage in this process by all affected stakeholders are paramount for the scheme’s effectiveness, it argues.

However, it accuses ICAO of developing the rules “locked away from the public domain … and shielded from public scrutiny.”

CORSIA will have a direct impact on countries’ compliance with the Paris climate targets and at a time when wider UNFCCC climate talks are taking place at COP23 in Bonn to discuss emission reduction transfers between countries, it is unclear how carbon credits purchased by airlines are booked to avoid double counting of reductions towards ICAO and the Paris goals, says CMW.

“Aviation’s measure risks blowing a giant hole in the Paris Agreement,” said CMW Aviation Policy Officer, Kelsey Perlman. “The irony is that delegates in Bonn and Montreal are currently negotiating interlinked climate issues, with one held in public and the other behind closed doors.

“ICAO needs to allow for more public scrutiny, but the truth is we can’t afford to keep waiting to see how this measure affects global climate ambition.”

CMW points to parliamentarians in Europe asking their governments for more information on CORSIA. During a recent debate in the European Parliament, a Commission official with knowledge of the contents of the CORSIA Package was unable to reveal details to members of the Parliament because of ICAO non-disclosure rules.

“The European countries that have defended transparency this week in Bonn while sitting in the dark in ICAO, need to open up the debate,” said Perlman.

How ICAO interprets transparency and public participation requirements is covered in a new paper by the Columbia Law School, which finds the ICAO governance process falls short of the public information requirements of the Aarhus Convention. The international treaty grants the public rights of access to information, participating in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, according to the report. Of the 45 countries that are members or observers of the ICAO Council and CAEP, 13 have signed up to the treaty.

“The ICAO rules of procedure allow for access to information and public meetings but inexplicably these rules have not been followed in the decision-making process around the sector’s offsetting scheme,” said Aoife O’Leary, author of the study. “And this despite the obligations the Convention places on many of the ICAO member and observer countries.”

The CORSIA Package – comprising draft regulatory Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and guidance material – is due to be sent to all ICAO States next month, who will only be given up to four months to scrutinise and respond before adoption by the Council in June next year.

In its annual submission to the UNFCCC subsidiary body SBSTA, which met during COP23, ICAO said having rules in place covering monitoring, reporting and verification of the sector’s carbon emissions was the immediate priority so that States and airlines can be ready to report emissions from 2019. “After that, ICAO will determine eligible emissions units which airlines purchase in order to meet offsetting requirements under CORSIA,” it added.

In another submission to SBSTA, Chile – with the support of Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru – said given its projected growth, the aviation sector would be required to compensate 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions during the period of CORSIA’s existence (2021-2035).

“As these compensations would mainly be supplied by activities outside the sector, Parties to the Paris Agreement should carefully consider the relationship between CORSIA and the Paris Agreement. Parties should seek ways to further collaborate in the climate change process. This should create synergies and mutual support on the overall objectives of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, and the objectives of ICAO Resolution A39-3.”

Meanwhile, Transport & Environment fears that at the current ICAO Council Session, member states have voted to reject ten key sustainability criteria out of the 12 that were submitted to the Council by CAEP experts for biofuels that would qualify under CORSIA. Under the scheme, airlines using sustainable aviation fuels can be credited against their emissions obligations. A CAEP working group had recommended the defining criteria of “sustainable” that included 12 environmental and social safeguards.

According to T&E’s own sources, the two surviving rules are a 10% greenhouse gas reduction target for biofuels compared to fossil jet fuel and a ban on crops grown on land that was deforested after 2009. Removing the remaining safeguards is contrary to UN’s globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, it said.

The sustainability rules have implications beyond CORSIA because they will become the de facto global standard for biofuel use in the aviation sector, it added.

The Brussels-based group criticised the European Commission for agreeing to the Council position, which T&E claims has been supported by France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Germany, although opposed by the Netherlands and the UK.

“If this extreme weakening of the sustainability criteria for biofuels is confirmed, the European Commission will have effectively surrendered to ICAO, showing how little it cares about human rights or biodiversity,” said Carlos Calvo Ambel, T&E Analysis and Climate Manager.

Responding to T&E’s claim, an aviation industry spokesperson said: “The aviation sector has been working hard to ensure that the deployment of alternative fuels is done in a sustainable way, including as part of the CORSIA package. Industry is working with environmental groups and governments through the ICAO experts process to develop a robust set of sustainability criteria for the use of these fuels.

“We await the outcome of the Council meeting but according to reports, the sustainability criteria were partially adopted, with some being sent back to the experts for further evaluation in the coming months. Nothing was rejected, as we understand it, but rather needs more study. It is vital that this process is able to be done in a robust manner so we can rely on these elements well into the future.”

In its SBSTA submission, ICAO said its recent Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels had “confirmed the critical importance of ensuring the sustainability of aviation alternative fuels, which is currently under consideration by ICAO.”

Editor’s note: CORSIA will be the focus of the upcoming Aviation Carbon 2017 conference that takes place in London on December 4 and 5, with a session devoted to the role of sustainable aviation fuels in the global carbon offsetting scheme.





Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

ICAO opens consultation with States on proposed rules for CORSIA implementation

Thu 7 Dec 2017 – ICAO’s proposed rules for States and aeroplane operators on the administration; monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of CO2 emissions; carbon offsetting requirements; and emissions units under the CORSIA scheme have been circulated to the UN agency’s 192 member States for comment. The so-called CORSIA Package is made up of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and related guidance material. The 128-page document sent by the ICAO Secretary General to States on Tuesday contains a proposal for a first edition of a new Volume IV (CORSIA) to Annex 16 (Environmental Protection) of the Chicago Convention to apply from 1 January 2019. It also includes draft Implementation Elements and supporting documents. States have been requested to forward their comments on the proposals to ICAO by 5 March 2018, an unusually short consultation period.

While the administrative and MRV requirements are proposed for applicability from 1 January 2019, CO2 offsetting requirements and related actions are proposed to apply from 1 January 2021.

States’ comments on the proposals will be considered by ICAO’s Air Navigation Commission, a 19-member technical body that recommends SARPs for adoption or approval by the governing ICAO Council. The CORSIA SARPs are expected to be formally adopted by the Council at its session next June.

States may respond to the Package by agreeing or disagreeing with the proposals, with or without commenting, or having no indication of position. No objections or comments will be taken as an agreement without comment or no indication of position respectively.

Following adoption by the Council, contracting States will then have to incorporate the SARPs into their national regulations but can notify ICAO if they do not intend to adopt all the standards and recommended practices contained in the new volume.

Aeroplane operators – ICAO is using the word “aeroplane” instead of “aircraft” as CORSIA only applies to fixed-wing aircraft – conducting international flights will be required to develop an emissions monitoring plan during the second half of 2018 and submit it to their State no later than 28 February 2019. As the CORSIA baseline will be set using the average emissions between 2019 and 2020, all operators will need to start monitoring their CO2 emissions from 1 January 2019.

The SARPs apply to an operator that produces annual CO2 emissions greater than 10,000 tonnes from the use of an aeroplane with a certificated take-off mass greater than 5,700kg conducting international flights on or after 1 January 2019, with the exception of humanitarian, medical or firefighting flights. The regulation applies to all such operators, regardless of whether the country it is registered in is one of the 72 that have so far volunteered to join CORSIA from the start in 2021.

Links:

ICAO – Mechanisms for CORSIA implementation

Countdown to CORSIA checklist

ICAO CORSIA implementation video:

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